Waxahachie High School is under new leadership, and the principal is no stranger to the district.
Tonya Harris has returned to Waxahachie ISD after she helped open a charter in Royce City as principal.
In totality, Harris has 13 years of education under her belt, seven of those as principal. Not only did she serve eight years in WISD, but also underwent her bachelor's and master's degree at Southwestern Assemblies of God.
Before she embarked in education, she served as a corporate accountant and fostered children from the Texas Baptist Home for seven years. After the company relocated, Harris went back to school to earn a teaching degree with a focus in English language arts. She worked a stint in Midlothian ISD and then at a charter school before she came to Waxahachie ISD.
Harris taught at the DAEP as an English teacher for several years, then at the School of Choice before she became the coordinator for the campus that serves at-risk students. She went on to become the assistant principal of the Ninth-grade Academy for two years. She was then blessed with the opportunity to assist in the opening of a STEM charter school, Education Center International, in Royce City. She served as principal from 2016 until 2019.
"It has always been a dream to be the principal of Waxahachie High School way back when I was at Challenge Academy," Harris told the Daily Light from behind her new desk.
"I do have an 'I' in front of my title as interim, and it is my goal to prove to the community that I am worthy of that position long-term," she then assured.
Harris met all the qualifications for the WHS position beside the requirement of being the principal of a 6A high school with more than 2,500 students.
"It is my vision to create unity in the campus and to create a better sense of community — Waxahachie was always founded on our traditions and our sense of pride and our sense of family," Harris said. "I think there has been an element of that lost."
Harris expressed with the integration of the ninth-grade into the high school, it has been done well but needs more unification.
"I want Waxahachie to lead and be a leader in Ellis County, and that's Dr. Cain's vision as well, and we are going to get there," Harris affirmed.
Harris plans to not only be visible in the community but in the hallways and will implement an open door policy. She elaborated on her leadership style and will be both a "teacher-principal" and a "student-principal."
"Happy teachers make happy students make happy principals," she explained. "I don't think you have to be one or the other. You have to be both, and I think I do a really good job at balancing that."
Included in the 2018-19 human resources audit presented to the Waxahachie ISD Board of Trustees were several comments from staff that discipline was not executed equally and consistently. Harris implemented a new system at the high school level to ensure students are set up for success, whether that involve personalized needs or discipline.
This year WHS will operate with six assistant principals instead of five. Each assistant principal, along with a counselor, will be dedicated to the same students all year long, based on the alphabet.
This will guarantee solid relationships are instilled to ensure the student is impacted in all facets of education and non-educational needs.
A new position included at WHS is a student advocate who will aid counselors with students' needs.
"These kids know that I love them with all my heart," Harris expressed. "I will feed them, I will help with whatever basic needs they have, but there are rules, and there are going to be expectations, and they are going to follow them."
Harris will hold her students to a higher standard, which means that consequences will be enforced for the betterment of the student. Relationships with the students and staff will make those harder conversations more comfortable and more effective.
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Ashley Ford | @aford_news | 469-517-1450